Building Trust and Fostering Family Involvement


Dreamer Families, like all families, are busy and likely face a number of legitimate constraints that can prevent them from being actively involved in IHDF activities. It’s the Affiliate’s job to ease or overcome these constraints rather than dismiss Dreamer caregivers or family members as uncaring or indifferent to their child’s education. Some possible obstacles include:

  • Conflicting family commitments (such as small siblings at home)
  • Conflicting work schedules
  • A history of negative interactions with schools and other institutions
  • Low expectations of the program’s effectiveness
  • Misperceptions about the IHDF’s role or intentions

More parents will participate in IHDF programming if the logistics are convenient and involvement is not too burdensome. Consider the tips to the right when planning IHDF meetings and functions.

Designating a Family Involvement Coordinator

Some Affiliates have successfully increased family involvement by electing, choosing, or hiring someone dedicated to working on promoting Dreamer family involvement. Selecting a Dreamer family member or caregiver who is well-liked and trusted among other families can be an effective way to increase involvement and build a bridge between Affiliate staff and families. Individuals entrusted with this position should observe confidentiality with Dreamer and family information as any third party or volunteer would. 

AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA, two federal service programs, may provide Affiliates with the resources to hire family members or others to work in this capacity.

Effective Family Communication

Practice Active Listening. Gather information about the interests, concerns, and ideas of parents and caregivers through questionnaires, home visits, suggestion boxes, family support meetings, and informal conversations. 

Translate Materials. Provide all information about IHDF activities, events, policies, and meetings in English and any other languages predominant in the Dreamers’ homes.

Offer Reminders about events and meetings. Reinforce written communications with follow-up contact like phone calls and texts. A personal invitation from the Program Director may also be more encouraging than a generic announcement.

Keep Regular Drop-in Hours when family members can stop by to connect with Program or Affiliate staff privately and confidentially.

Share Good News.
Create occasions for positive communications with parents and caregivers about their child. Too often, the only contact parents and caregivers have with other authority figures in their child’s life and education is in a negative context.